Chargers Review: Defensive Tackles

Stop the run, get some pressure up the middle and open up the field for the linebackers to make plays. That is the job of a defensive tackle in the NFL. The San Diego Chargers had players who could do one, but none that could do all three. The production was less than stellar, but there were certainly some bright spots, including Co-Lineman of the Year DeQuincy Scott.

Jamal Williams is the force up the middle that takes on double teams to free up the linebacking corps. His main job is to clog the middle of the line and not necessarily make plays, but make sure others can.

The problem arises when the lanes he has to cover are too large. Playing left defensive tackle, Williams had to contend with a defensive end that liked to make his first move to the outside. With Williams taking on the center and guard, the lane to his left was wide open and many a running back exploited that cavern.

Williams will never have a lot of tackles; it just isn't in his job description. A year ago he was having a Pro Bowl caliber season and this year the linebackers behind him changed slightly. Ben Leber held down the strong side and Zeke Moreno was in the middle. Both had trouble filling the open lanes, thus making Williams' efforts look worse than they were. Williams is again healthy, and if he has containment next to him, on either side, his play will be noticed more.

Despite the constant double teams he faced, Williams had 33 tackles, added one sack, one forced fumble and three stuffs. The area he could improve upon is knocking down a few passes. A tougher task than the written word, considering both his hands are tied up wit blockers, but to elevate his play to Pro Bowl status, he will have to rival the numbers put up by the best defensive tackles in the game.

Jason Fisk had the responsibility of collapsing the pocket. Facing the guard, he did not get doubled very often and it was his job to make the tackles up the middle and produce some semblance of a pass rush.

Fisk did a respectable job in defending the run. He led all Chargers linemen with 44 solo tackles, 51 overall. His four stuffs were also tops among linemen. As mentioned, Fisk was responsible for covering the gap opened when teams doubled Williams. Having to shed one block was the key to his success and he did it well against the run.

Where he suffered, to the angst of fans, was against the pass. Fisk was rarely in the opponents' backfield. He had just one sack, and very few pressures. His sack against Minnesota was the product of prolonged coverage.

With a guy like Williams, who will not get many sacks, Fisk was tasked with pushing the pocket and making the opposing quarterback have to roll out – preferably into the ends, Marcellus Wiley and Adrian Dingle. That did not happen. Quarterbacks sat safely in the pocket nest and were able to pick apart the Chargers defense when Fisk was on the field. Fisk is best used as a two down lineman. He will likely return to the Bolts but many have pleaded for an upgrade here. An upgrade would push Fisk back to third string material.

DeQuincy Scott was the Co-Lineman of the Year as voted on by his teammates. Scott shared the honors with Cory Raymer.

The undersized defensive tackle was used as a rotational player, coming in on passing downs to provide a rush from the middle. Scott is one of the few the Chargers placed into a good position. Not at his best when forced to bull rush, Scott was sent in on stunts where he could use his speed to exploit the less mobile guards and centers of the league. His forte was his pass rush and he led the Chargers in sacks with 6.5. This role could expand in '04 as the team looks to continue to put him in good position to make plays and force the quarterbacks to make bad decisions or take a sack.

Scott is not an ideal player to stop the run. His 18 tackles were more a product of hustle, catching up with plays towards the sidelines rather than stopping runs coming up the gut. He did not provide any stuffs and would need to add weight to be more effective against the heavier offensive lines he faces. That would likely strip him off his greatest asset, speed. If the team switches to a 3-4, Scott could become an end in the rotation.

Joe Salave'a, a Samoan out of Oceanside, was signed in October by the Bolts. Down the stretch, Salave'a saw more significant action. The former fourth round pick had five tackles, but rarely stood out. Odds are he won't be back with the team.

Jacques Cesaire played in four games, failing to get extensive action in any. The undrafted free agent out of South Connecticut State registered three tackles on the season, all coming in Pittsburgh. Cesaire showed signs in training camp and will be looked at to improve and make some impact in the future.

Correction: In our defensive end piece we incorrectly stated Adrian Dingle played his best against Pro Bowl left tackle John Tait. It should have read Pro Bowl left tackle Willie Roaf.

Denis Savage can be reached at safage@cox.net

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